Centro Integral Educativo Latino de Olympia (CIELO), an Olympia-based group providing resources and support to Latinos in the South Puget Sound, highlighted its pandemic programs during its virtual gala on Sat., Oct. 16.
CIELO, in English, Integrated Educational Center for Latinos in Olympia, was founded in 1996 to provide support and resources to immigrants and refugees in the Thurston, Lewis, and Mason counties.
Program changed during the pandemic
Executive Director Julio Rios said the work of CIELO, which offers educational, counseling, and advocacy services, changed in the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“More than ever, we were able to have meaningful conversations with the community and ask them, ‘What do you need?’” he said in a video message.
“Because we were able to have those conversations and have the trust of the community, we were able to talk to them about vaccination, invite them to vaccination events, make vaccination events that were immigrant-friendly, in a place that they were willing to come and say, ‘Now I wanna take the vaccination,’” Rios added.
The CIELO executive also said the group offered language assistance and provided incentives relevant to the Latino community during its COVID-19 vaccination events.
CIELO also converted its food bank into a drive-thru food bank, Rios said.
“That opened our eyes to make sure that now we have services that are not tied up to just a single place,” he noted.
Griselda Perretz-Rosales, one of the group’s co-founders, said they created CIELO after seeing how “the reality of the Latino immigrant is very different.”
Perretz-Rosales said the Latinos they met included some who crossed the border “with no education and many times by themselves,” as well as families that did not know any other Latinos in the neighborhood, “so it was a level of isolation and daily survival.”
“We are going to organize something to serve a larger community and that will take a totally different vision, and that’s how CIELO started,” she recalled.
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